Cotton Speaks in Support of Gulf Arms Deals to Counter Iran
Below are his remarks as delivered:
Madam President, I want speak today about the proposed disapproval of arms sales to our Gulf partners, Bahrain and Qatar. Last month, the Administration notified Congress of its intention to sell Apache helicopters to Qatar. Those helicopters will help with security and counterterrorism patrols, especially ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which will of course be a prime target for terrorists. We're also scheduled to sell air-defense missiles to Bahrain, where we have more than 8,500 Americans stationed in Manama at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Fifth Fleet.
These sales would also yield more than $3 billion for America while making America safer overseas-what you might call a win-win. By contrast, rejecting these arms sales in a fit of pique would endanger Americans and weaken American influence in the Persian Gulf at precisely the moment when we, as a nation, are being severely tested.
Right now, the Iranian regime is engaged in a bloody campaign of terror, testing our resolve. Earlier this week, Iran's proxy on the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, launched a missile attack on a civilian airport in Saudi Arabia, wounding more than two-dozen civilians, including women and children. Where did the Houthis get that missile? Yemen isn't known for its defense-industrial base. That missile came from Iran, as surely as if it was launched from Iranian soil itself.
And in recent weeks, four-four!-oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, flying the flags of our allies and partners Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, were attacked with explosives, in effect terrorizing all traffic through that strategic chokepoint. Public reports indicate that the Iranians perpetrated these attacks. Let's just say I'm confident it wasn't the Swedes settling old grudges against their Nordic rival.
And just this morning, hours ago, two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, with early indications that the damage is consistent with a torpedo or other projectile. While the attack hasn't been attributed yet, I think it's a safe bet that it wasn't the Omanis.
Let's not be naïve about what's happening in the Middle East. As Iran's economy staggers under the weight of new American sanctions, the ayatollahs are lashing out and raging against the world. It's essential we support our Gulf partners during this dangerous time so they can defend themselves from Iranian aggression and its proxies. Besides, the arms we sell to Qatar and Bahrain will also protect all those Americans and their families in Bahrain and Qatar.
But instead of helping Qatar and Bahrain to confront a common adversary, some of my colleagues want to hang them out to dry.
If we snub our Gulf partners today, though, there will be consequences. Our joint efforts to fight terrorist financing could suffer. Our pressure campaign against Iran could also be jeopardized.
And if we back away from our partners now, their security needs won't disappear. It will just be adversaries swooping in to support them. Qatar is already considering a major-arms deal with Russia. Both Qatar and Bahrain are involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative, an attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to build a world order with itself at the top. So what we're debating today isn't only whether to help or hurt our Gulf partners. It's also whether to push them further into the Chinese and Russian spheres of influence.
I understand that a few of my colleagues have qualms about some of the countries with whom America must work as a matter of necessity to protect our security and our interests. But that's no excuse for rash actions that would weaken American influence, threaten Americans overseas, and embolden our adversaries in Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow.
Make no mistake: the ayatollahs, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping are watching these votes. For those of you who are undecided, I suggest you consider how those men would want you to vote.